What If India And China Used Natural Gas And Oil Like The U.S.?

Originally Published in Forbes on June 17 , 2018. Written by Jude Clemente.

BP’s just released Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 has got my wheels turning. The first thing you should know is that global energy consumption has essentially just begun: around 85% of the global population – 6 in every 7 humans – still lives in developing nations. They don’t live in rich cities, like San Francisco, Toronto, New York City, Los Angeles, London, or Tokyo; they live in poorer ones, like Mumbai, Lagos, Jakarta, Guangzhou, Calcutta, and Karachi. This is where the future energy action is man: at least 90% of future demand will be in nations that are currently not developed. We rich, “all the energy that we want at our fingertips” Westerners still aren’t grasping a sad and cold reality: most of the world is poor and energy deprived.

Given that economic growth, especially in the still developing nations where energy demand structures are still immature, is directly tied to more energy usage. So, this has got me thinking about the future energy demands of the world, which of course naturally focuses on the most most critical giants, India and China. These two coal-based titans have really just started to consume natural gas and oil. For the first graphic, don’t forget “that wealth is health“.

Indians and Chinese make a fraction of the money that we Americans make.DATA SOURCE: USDA

The really tragic part of this next graphic is how a lack of access to electricity continues to block human development around the world. This reality that is tragically and regularly ignored is truly the world’s biggest problem. Sadly, the International Energy Agency’s, the most vital energy entity in the world, definition of “electricity access” is woefully inadequate: it’s 75 kWh per year, or what we Americans use in two days. In other words, whenever you cite the IEA’s energy access statistics (such as 1.3 billion people today having no electricity) you are citing numbers that are way too low. Electricity is the sine qua non of modern life: without it, there’s nothing. As rich Leonardo and Al fly the world, seeking to block access to critical sources of energy like oil, coal, and gas, the digital divide continues to expand.

Indians and Chinese use far less electricity, have far fewer cars.DATA SOURCE: WORLD BANK; JTC

Natural gas and oil supply 60- 65% of the energy used in the world’s richest nations. India and China have 37% of the world’s population but consume just 9% of the world’s natural gas and 17% of the oil. So it becomes very apparent: latent gas and oil demand in India and China is immense.

Indians and Chinese use a fraction of the natural gas and oil that we Americans use.DATA SOURCE: EIA; IEA; JTC

So now the punch line. How much natural gas and oil will the future world need? Surely a lot more, but what if Indians and Chinese were to consume natural gas and oil like we rich Americans do? International energy markets would quake. Even using half of what we use would cause the gas and oil markets to explode.

The final graphic demonstrates why U.S. oil and gas exporters, as well as the others in the world, are salivating at the opportunity that lies ahead. When considering how even in rich, developed Europe, where incremental demand was tiny, the Kyoto protocol to drastically curtail fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions was a complete failure, and then considering the huge incremental energy needs of the poor countries that signed the latest climate agreement back in December 2015, is it any wonder: “The global Paris climate failure.

After how rich, healthy, and long living, India and China have watched us oil and gas devouring Westerners become, can you really blame them for wanting to use more? But, somebody else summed up my “hey you can’t use the energy that I use” frustration much better. The headline of the decade: “Should climate scientists fly?

The global gas and oil markets would explode if Indians and Chinese ever consume like Americans.DATA SOURCE: EIA; IEA; JTC